Friday, May 30, 2008

Lutherans Deny Consubstantiation

Lutherans are often depicted as holding the view of consubstantiation regarding the Lord's Supper. This is patently false. For those who are interested, I am including sections from 3 accounts which demonstrate that Lutherans deny and reject consubstantiation. You can find many more salutary details by reading the complete articles of Charles Porterfield Krauth, C.F.W. Walther, and Norman Nagel.

CP Krauth, Conservative Reformation, pp. 774-776.

Salmasius (+1653): “Consubstantiation, or fusion of natures, is the commixtion of two substances as it were into one; but it is not this which the followers of Luther believe; for they maintain the co-existence of two substances distinct in two subjects. It is the co-existence, rather, of the two substances than their consubstantiation.” Nothing would be easier than to multiply such citations. . . .

The brethren of the Augsburg confession teach: That the body and blood of Christ are present with the signs in the Supper substantially and corporeally. But here it is to be observed that these brethren do not mean that there is any consubstantiation or impanation. On the contrary, Pfaff, the venerable Chancellor of Tubingen, protests, in their name, against such an idea. He says:

“All ours agree that the body of Christ is not in the Eucharist by act of that finite nature of its own, according to which it is now only in a certain ‘pou’ (somewhere) of the heavens; and this remains that the body of Christ is not in the world, nor in the Eucharist, by diffusion or extension, by expansion or location, by circumscription or natural mode. Yet is the body of Christ really present in the Holy Supper.

“But the inquisitive may ask, How? I answer, our theologians, who have rightly weighed the matter, say that the body and blood of Christ are present in the Holy Supper according to the omnipresence imparted to the flesh of Christ by virtue of the personal union, and are sacramentally united with the Eucharistic symbols, the bread and wine; that is, are so united, that of the divine institution, these symbols are not symbols and figures of an absent thing, but of a thing most present, to wit, the body and blood of Christ, which are not figurative, but most real and substantial.

Wherefore the body and blood of Christ are present, but not by a presence of their own a natural and cohesive, circumscriptive and local, diffusive and extensive presence, according to which other bodies are said to be present but by a divine presence, a presence through the conjunction of the Logos with the flesh of Christ. We, rejecting all other modes of a real Eucharistic presence, hold, in accordance with our Symbolical books, that union alone according to which the body and blood of Christ, by act of the divine person, in which they subsist, are present with the Eucharistic symbols. We repeat, therefore, all those of the Reformed do wrongly who attribute to us the doctrine of consubstantiation, against whom we solemnly protest.”

The adherents of the Augsburg Confession hold that the true and substantial body and blood of Christ . , are received by unbelievers as well as by believers, orally. Pfaff thus expresses it: “Though the participation be oral, yet the mode is spiritual; that is, is not natural, not corporeal, not carnal.”

Not only however have candid men of other Churches repudiated the false charge made against our Church, but there have not been wanting those, not of our Communion, who have given the most effectual denial of these charges by approaching very closely to the doctrine which has been maligned, or by accepting it unreservedly. Lehre and Wehre, II, 2, Feb. 1856, pp. 33-43

If the opponents of the Lutheran Church here in America want to be concise in describing the teaching of Luther, the Augsburg Confession, the Formula of Concord, and the entire old Lutheran church on the Lord’s Supper, especially as regards the manner in which the body and blood of Jesus Christ are present in this sacrament, they commonly resort to the use of the technical terms in our title, consubstantiation and impanation, or also incorporation.

This labeling is still used in the latest edition of the Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 1854, edited by J. Newton Brown. Under the entry “Consubstantiation” we read the following: “A tenet of the Lutheran church respecting the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. Luther denied that the elements were changed after consecration, and therefore taught that the bread and wine indeed remain; but that together with them, there is present the substance of the body of Christ, which is literally (!) received by communicants. As in red-hot iron it may be said, two distinct substances, iron and fire, are united, so is the body of Christ joined with the bread.”

Under the entry “Lutheranism” we are told that “It has undergone some alterations since the time of its founder. Luther believed the impanation or consubstantiation.”

It is indeed a pitiable and devastating testimony to the level of theological education in this country when a book claiming to represent that education contains such disfigurements (to say no more) of the teaching of a church that is spread across the entire globe. But it is even more unpardonable and presupposes either the greatest ignorance or evil intent when alleged theologians who call themselves Lutherans are just as incorrect in presenting the teaching of the church whose servants, stewards, and watchmen they want to be.

Alas, this is by no means an infrequent occurrence! The whole so-called “American Lutheran” church, led by such men as Dr. B. Kurtz and Dr. S. S. Schmucker, dissociates itself, to be sure, from consubstantiation or impanation in the Lord’s Supper, yet, in spite of all protests on the part of Lutherans in this country who are faithful to the Symbols, keeps on boldly accusing these Lutherans and the whole old Lutheran Church that has remained loyal to Luther’s teaching of holding this unbiblical conception oft he presence oft he body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar. This is so notorious that we may dispense with documentation from the Lutheran Observer or the Evangelical Lutheran.

To be sure, the warning has often been issued in recent years against reviving the old controversy about the Lord’s Supper. However, just those who issue this warning keep on attacking the teaching of the Lutheran Church on this point and not only call it a remnant of the papacy and a product of dark and superstitious days, but they also give that teaching a completely false interpretation and then make their renunciation of it a shibboleth of genuine American Lutherans. Who, then, is responsible for stirring up the old conflict? Those who remain faithful to the teaching of our church as deposited in its Symbols and defend it against attacks and distortions? Or is it not rather those who in the midst of our church oppose and misinterpret this teaching as unbiblical and papistic? Every fairminded person, even among our opponents, must concede that it is the latter.

For the moment, we will confine ourselves to rejecting the doctrine of a consubstantiation or an impanation that is imputed to Lutherans who are faithful to the Symbols.

C.F.W. Walther, Editorials from Lehre und Where, p. 15f

First of all, what do these terms mean? Consubstantiation, as the word indicates, means a combination of two substances in such a way that by being mixed together they are fused into one substance or mass, consisting of different ingredients. For example, pouring the substances of water and wine together produces a watered wine (Weinwasser); blending honey and water produces mead; mixing meat and flour produces meat pies. Hence, in the Lord’s Supper consubstantiation would involve the concept of a spacial combination, mixture, and fusion of the body and blood of Christ with the consecrated elements as a new dual mass, as Eutyches once asserted the fusion of both natures in Christ into one nature.

Impanation signifies the spacial inclusion, concealment, incapsulation of an item within the bread, as in a capsule containing and enclosing the item. Hence, in the Lord’s Supper impanation would express the idea that the body of Christ, compressed into a very small body, lies concealed under the consecrated bread and is enclosed by it as by its container.

These conceptions of the presence of Christ, that is, of His body and blood, in the Holy Supper are thoroughly unbiblical, materialistic, unworthy, and self-contradictory, and they are equally un-Lutheran and in contradiction to the Confessions of our church. . . .

The first one to impute the conception of impanation and consubstantiation to Luther was Carlstadt, who therefore in a blasphemous way referred to the God of the Lutherans as a “God made of bread” (St. Louis Edition, XX, 577). Zwingli, Oecolampadius, and even Bucer of Strasbourg followed Carlstadt in this matter. Bucer, however, revoked his accusation after he had read Luther’s “Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper” and had talked with Luther. He wrote:

When Luther in the process of this disputation went into greater detail on this entire matter of’ the Sacrament, I perceived that he did not combine the body and blood of the Lord with bread and wine by a natural bond, nor enclose body and blood spatially in bread and wine, nor attribute to the sacraments the peculiar power through which these achieve the salvation of the communicants, but that he merely affirmed a sacramental union between the bread and the Lord’s body, between His blood and the wine. Furthermore, he teaches that the strengthening of faith attributed to the sacraments does not rest on a power which inheres in the external elements as such, but a power which belongs to Christ and is imparted by His Spirit through the words and sacred signs. When I understood this, I was at pains to show and commend this also to others.

Therefore here and now I desire to testify to all who read this that Martin Luther and those who truly agree with him and duly follow his teaching do not assume any impanation in the Holy Supper, nor any local inclusion of Christ’s body in the bread and blood in the wine, nor do they ascribe any saving power to the external actions of the Sacrament as such. They assume a true, substantial presence and distribution of the Lord’s body and blood with the bread and wine in Holy Communion, as both the Lord’s own words and the testimony of the apostle clearly express. This presence and distribution is based on the words and institution of the Lord Himself, without any natural union of Christ’s body and blood with the elements. . . .

After Luther’s death it was Calvin who revived the old accusation, as may be gathered from the Apologia confessionis de coena Domini contra corruptelas Calvini [Defense of the Confession Concerning the Lord’s Supper, Against the Corruptions of Calvin], by Joachim Westphal at Hamburg (Urcellis, 1558, cf. pp. 297 ff.). Therefore our church has spoken clearly about this in the Formula of Concord of 1580. Here it says among other things (in a citation from the Wittenberg Concord, as it had been jointly composed and signed by Luther and Bucer and other Saxon and South German theologians in the year 1536): We “do not believe that the body and blood of Christ are locally enclosed in the bread, or are in some way permanently united with it apart from the use of the sacrament ...” (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, VII, 14; Tappert, p. 571).

Norman E. Nagel, "Consubstantiation" in Hermann Sasse: A Man for Our Times?, pp. 240ff

There never was such a word until the sixteenth century. It was conceived and born in darkness and survives only as it battles against the light. It may be likened unto anaerobic bacteria. Its dubious genesis, early cancer, and links are what this paper will attempt to inquire into. We may note its remarkable recrudescence in the 20th century, but that is more than we can pursue today.

Consubstantiation is identified as “Lutheran” in The Harper Collins Encyclopedia of Catholicism of 1995. There it is defined as the theory that the substance of bread and wine remain together with the body and blood of Christ in the eucharistic sacrament. A loaded statement indeed, in which we may, for what we are pursuing today, notice particularly that the statement depends on the term substance, and observe that it is here used of bread and wine, and not of the body and blood of Christ.

Should it then surprise us that a recent identification of what Lutherans confess of the Lord’s Supper as consubstantiation should come from Princeton? At Princeton one may expect that they know what theology may be called Reformed, if not what may be called Lutheran. Is there something in the Reformed way of theology which virtually commits it to so misunderstanding what Lutherans confess of the Lord’s Supper as to label it consubstantiation?

Such was indeed the case when the word was first used by a Reformed theologian to depict the Lutheran doctrine as absurd, or what’s even worse as not yet free of Rome. He does not mention the body and the blood. Have you ever heard some catechumen say, “Rome has only body and blood; the Reformed have only bread and wine; the Lutherans have all four. This is the Lutheran doctrine of the Lord’s Supper.” Is that what we might call consubstantiation?

What is at stake here is not whether some theologian has done his homework or not. Sasse leaves us in no doubt what is at stake, and who has ever caught him not having done his homework? He is then able to draw in illuminating instances from at times the apparently unlikeliest places. These then serve to show that we are not the first to face this issue, and how sectarian it is to think and speak (perhaps only speak) as if we were.

Thus he draws to us the resources of the church perpetuo mansura showing how the Lord has brought her through even to such a day as ours, by way of days far worse than ours, and so calling us to live our days in the confidence of such a Lord who gathers His people to His table, and so on to the final messianic feast. In this centenary year of Herman Sasse’s birth, when we give thanks for all that our Lord had use of him for, we may surely include not only his immense learning (apostolic, catholic, Lutheran), but then also his astonishing ability to gather it to a specific focus, thereby illuminating and deepening something that is Christianity crucial. This is nowhere so clear as in the Lord’s Supper.

This paper will attempt then something of a footnote prompted by his confession of “the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and to drink.” This is what is at stake when Lutherans are told that they confess consubstantiation.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

We Condemn

I was going to haul out my copy of Hans Werner Gensichen's book We Condemn: How Luther and 16th Century Lutheranism Condemned False Doctrine in order to quote a few salient paragraphs, but I can't find it in my piles of stuff right now.

In them meantime, while my mind is on it, I'm posting a brief comment on the book by Ralph Tate found at the ConcordTX site. He gets the gist of the differences between the Lutheran and the Reformed-Roman Catholic condemnations.

In Gensichen's book, "Damnamus: How Lutheran Reformers Condemned False Doctrine",* he discusses the use of "anathema." You can find the use of "we condemn" or "damnamus" or "anathema" throughout the Book of Concord, but most prevalently in the Formula of Concord. (See also Nagel's paper on "Antithesis".**)

In Reformed or Catholic circles, the anathema strikes at the person. Why? Because they are both works based theologies. Rome places works before Justification, while Reformed teachers place works immediately following. Since both hold to a form of infused righteousness, the anathema necessarily strikes at the individual. Thus, we can see that their anathemas generally degenerate into ad hominem attacks, which are often fallacious.

However, you will note that, generally speaking, Lutherans use "anathema" in a totally different manner. They use it evangelically. In other words, anathemas are used to mark the boundary of churchly belief and practice by condemning only errant doctrine.

This, in turn, has a two-fold function: 1) to protect simple believers within the church and 2) to reclaim the errant teacher. It is much the same way Lutherans use excommunication: not to punish but rather to protect and reclaim.

At a different level (the pedigogical, catechetical, educational), the anathemas serve as antithesis. A thesis must have appropriate antithesis. For example, if I say, "This is a car." I must also be able to say what it's not, "This is not a cat." Something either "is" (true) or it "is not" (false; the Law of Non-contradiction).

In fact, as Bacon points out, the negative instance is always stronger than the positive instance. So, if I say, "This is Christ", then I must be prepared to say, "This is anti-Christ."

Thus, you can see that our Confessors were not simply being cranky curmudgeons when stating "damnamus!" Rather they had a very precise pedagogical and evangelical purpose. To allow people to remain impenitent in error is just simply irresponsible. It is childish and cowardly ("effeminate") to act otherwise. This is very deadly business. That is exactly why the Formula of Concord is crafted in a thesis/antithesis structure. Antithesis is the antiphon to the thesis (Nagel). It's also why so many "Lutherans" blanch at subscribing to it: our old Adam just can't stand the heat.

Now there are exceptions to almost anything. For example, you may find Zwingli, Calvin and Pope/Cardinals condemned by name. According to the rules of rhetoric, ad hominem condemnation is valid whenever the teacher and his teaching/cause are so closely identified as to be synonymous. This is especially true if such teachers persist in false doctrine after repeated admonition. Hence, Zwingli, Calvin and various papal representatives are condemned [by name].

So, rather than being acrimonious, the proper use of the anathema is both very evangelical and uplifting. Still, condemnations are a real problem for many in our synod, today. When cited for error, they recoil with personal attack, because they sense personal afrontery. The root problem is that many "leaders" in our synod have internalized many Reformed notions. [We live in a society that, after all, is steeped in a world-view whose genetic kernel is Reformed.] Such sensitive little gods we've become!

You can readily see this effect in many sermons, communion practices, ad nauseam, a la Church Growth and Leadership programs. The reason is that Justification (sola fide), and its Law/Gospel corollary, have been replaced by the Great Commission as theology's material principle. Sermons become self-help exercises in positive thinking. Communion becomes a cattle-call. We say, "Jesus loves you", but we can't draw ourselves to say, "repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand." In the end, we just damn people all the more just like Luther's Heidelberg Disputation argues.

Rather the Cross itself is the most awful polemic against man's designs. It's its own thesis/antithesis. There, the Crucified One both condemns us and saves us. In fact, He must condemn us, crush us and annihilate us so that He can save us, resurrect us and make us anew. Those who quail and quiver at anathemas and condemnations understand neither the Cross nor really believe the Resurrection. For the cruelty of the Cross necessarily presupposes the Resurrection.

So, in summary, Reformed/Catholic anathemas strike at the person, because of their doctrine of Personal-Righteousness. Lutherans use the anathema evangelically to protect, teach and reclaim, because their material principle is the sola fide, Christ's imputed Righteousness. Those who are touchy about such issues either are in denial or are hiding another agenda.


* Hans-Werner Gensichen, "We Condemn: How Luther and 16th Century Lutheranism Condemned False Doctrine" (St Louis, Mo: CPH, 1967).

** Norman Nagel, "Externum Verbum: Testing Augustana V on the Doctrine of the Holy Ministry", LOGIA, Vol. VI, No. 3 (Crestwood, MO: The Luther Academy, Holy Trinity 1997).

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Justification and Sanctification

"Are we paying so much attention to justification that we ignore sanctification?"

What IS the relationship between justification and sanctification? Should we prefer a 50%-50% ratio or a 30% - 70% or 60%-40% in an attempt to keep things "balanced" between justification and sanctification? If we paid attention only to justification, would not sanctification follow? Is it possible to have justification and not sanctification?

Luther: "You ask, how shall we begin to be godly and what shall we do that God may begin His work in us? Answer: Do you not understand? It is not for you to work or to begin to be godly, AS LITTLE AS IT IS TO FURTHER AND COMPLETE IT. Everything that you begin is in and remains in sin, though it shines ever so brightly; you cannot do anything but sin, do what you will." Lenker, Sermons of Martin Luther, 1:25-27

Koeberle: "Sanctification must also be understood as an exclusive act of God. Just as forgiveness is exclusively God's work and every cooperation or conditioning activity on man's part is completely excluded, so regeneration is an energy that comes simply out of Christ's victory and does not require our supplementary efforts. It is not fitting to teach justification evangelically and then in the doctrine of sanctification to turn synergistic. . . . the unity of justification and sanctification given in the act of faith becomes mingled in a confused promiscuity, instead of keeping justification in a place of clear logical per-eminence over the sanctification that is given with it. As we have seen, neither can be separated from the other." The Quest for Hoiness, 95-96.

Sasse: "For the church does not live by morals, by the knowledge and observance of God's law nor does it live by religion, by lofty experiences of the divine and an awareness of the mysteries of God. It lives solely by the forgiveness of sins. Hence the reformation does not consist as the later Middle Ages believed, and has even been believed in wide circles of the Protestant world, of an ethico-religious correction, of a moral quickening and a spiritual deepening throughout the church. In consists, rather, according to its own peculiar nature, of the revival of the preaching fo the Gospel of forgiveness of sins for Christ's sake." Here We Stand, 60.

Scaer: "The desire to see the church as a congregation of the virtuous rather than an assembly of sinners is characteristic of Calvinism and Protestantism, not Lutheranism. The reformations under Zwingli and Calvin were so committed to making good works, at least as they understood them, a part of society, that they placed the government under the moral direction of the church." "Sanctification in the Lutheran Confessions," CTQ 53:3, 167.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

Here's a site with clips from Ben Stein's thought-provoking film: Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

When Unity is to be Shunned

This quote shows how ready Luther is to accept unity with those who agree in doctrine, but also that he does not want others merely to think he is stubborn when he refuses unity.

To the venerable Mr. Martin Bucer, a minister of God’s Word in the church at Strassburg, my superior:

Grace and peace in Christ. We have read the small confession; which you, my Bucer, have sent, and we approve of it. We give thanks to God that we agree at least, as you write, insofar as we both confess that the body and blood of Christ are truly present in the Lord’s Supper, and that together with the Words [of Institution] they are distributed as food of the soul. I am amazed, however, that you think that Zwingli and Oecolampadius also share this opinion or position. But now let me speak to you.

If, then, we confess that the body of Christ is truly distributed to the soul as food, and if there is no reason for us not to say that the body of Christ is also distributed in this way to the unbelieving soul, although the unbelieving soul does not receive it—just as the light of the sun is offered equally to the seeing and to the blind—I am wondering why it bothers you people to confess also that the body of Christ is offered, together with the bread, externally to the mouth of the believer and unbeliever alike; for through the concession that the body of Christ is distributed to individual souls it is, of course, necessarily granted that the body is present and can be distributed in many places at the same time.

If this thought has not yet matured among you people, however, then I think this matter should be postponed and further divine grace should be awaited. I am unable to abandon this position, and if, as you write, you do not think that this position is demanded by Christ’s words, my conscience nevertheless holds that it is required. Therefore I am unable to confess with you that total unity exists between us, if I do not wish to harm my conscience, [or] rather, if I do not wish to sow among us the seed of far worse turmoil for our congregations, and of more dreadful future dissension among us. [This would be the result,] if we had created unity among us in this way.

I ask you, therefore, for the sake of conscience and peace in your congregations and in ours, not to let it go so far that we stir up more disturbances and scandals through this remedy for schism, but to entrust this matter to God. In the meantime let us be guardians of whatever peace and agreement thus far has been established, as we declare that the body of the Lord is truly present and distributed inwardly to the believing soul. For you people can easily understand that, if unity were established between us, some of your people would commune in our congregations, and also some of ours in your congregations.

Those who would commune with a different faith and with a different attitude of conscience would necessarily on both sides receive something different from that which they believe [they are receiving]. Thus it would be unavoidable that through the ministry [of the sacrament] and our consciences either their faith would be made a mockery through hidden deceit and lies if the communicants were unaware of this difference, or, if they were aware of the difference, then their faith would be destroyed through a public sacrilege. You can see how devout and Christian this would be. For this reason let us select rather the lesser of two evils, if one of the two must be endured at all. Let us therefore rather put up with this smaller disagreement, together with a limited peace, lest through our efforts to cure this evil we may stir up real tragedies of more serious discord and unbearable uproar.

I wish you would believe that, as I have told you at the Coburg, I want to settle our discord even though I might have to live three times to accomplish it, because I have seen how necessary your fellowship is for us, and how the gospel was and still is disadvantaged [by our discord]. I have become so much aware of this that I am convinced that all the gates of hell, the whole papacy, all of Turkey, the whole world, all the flesh, and whatever evils there are could not have harmed the gospel at all, if we had only been of one mind. But what am I to do with something which cannot be accomplished?

If you wish to be fair, then you will attribute the fact that I shun this unity not to stubbornness, but to the urging of my conscience and to the force of my faith. Since our discussion at the Coburg I have great hope, but this hope is not yet unwavering.

May the Lord Jesus enlighten us, and may he make us perfectly of one mind; for this I pray, for this I sigh, for this I long. Farewell in the Lord.

Wittenberg, January 22, 1531
Martin Luther

Monday, May 26, 2008

"Effective" Fishing

“Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt 4:19).

Depth finders, sonar, tackle boxes, scented lures, graphite poles, and bass boats that cost more than the homes affordable for low-income Americans: this is what some associate with “fishing.” Then there are those who would sit on a grassy bank under a willow with a bamboo pole and a can of worms. Is one fisherman more effective than the other -- or are both reliant upon some factor which cannot be humanly controlled?

By comparison, what about those would-be fishers of men (Mt. 4:19)? When some think about evangelism programs, they instantly picture congregations paying thousands of dollars in church growth consultant fees, printed materials, video production and projection equipment, and all the rest. The intent is that they will be better fishers of men with all the extras — as though fish are happier to be caught by high-tech fishermen than by a bumpkin with a bamboo pole.

But is this a reliance on men rather than on God? Is this suggesting that the effective means for evangelism are not located in the means of grace but in motivational, manipulative methods? In fishing, the setting of goals is arbitrary and not in itself conducive to a better catch. In fact, it may be more conducive to disappointment and discouragement.

The equipment-laden fisher may set the goal: “I’m going to catch ten fish today.” The other goes out without any goals, just for the joy of fishing. On that day, the former nets five and the latter nets four. Is the former better off for having set a goal? Did the goal -- and his counting -- make him a more effective fisherman? Or did it merely lead to disappointment because he only caught half of his goal?

Some of these "fishers of men" are intent on using a huge dragnet, like mass telephoning. It doesn’t matter if nonrespondents have been irritated by the inconvenient interruption of just one more phone solicitation. For the sake of the gospel, it is worth irritating such people, just as it’s okay to kill a few stray dolphins in nets intended for a profitable catch of tuna.

The disciples had fished all night when the Lord came to them (Jn 21). They were trying to be as effective as they possibly could. Was their failure to catch fish the result of their being ineffective or inept fishermen? The catching of fish was not in their effectiveness, but in what was given by their Lord. Just so, talk about “effective” evangelism is not gospel talk. The establishing of goals is not essentially gospel work. We are not concerned with being effective—we are happy to receive whatever the Lord causes to be gathered in through simple means that are meet, right and salutary in the joy of gospel fishing.

With a bit of imagination, what has been said of fishermen can also be said of farmers. A farmer can only plant and fertilize. But unless the Lord gives the increase, all his investment comes to naught. Oh yes, there are farmers who take pride in their ability to get more bushels per acre than their neighbors—and pastors who take pride in having more converts than their neighbors. How pleasing is such pride before the Lord? Sometimes in spite of himself, the farmer has an abundant crop—and the farmer with all his fertilizers and insecticides, soil sampling, up-to-date tractors and combines and irrigation equipment can go bust.

Whatever the imagery, our delight as fishers of men or sowers of the gospel does not rest in effective means but in gracious means, not in our effectiveness but on our heavenly Father’s graciousness for the sake of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ship of Fools

Sebastian Brant (1458–1521) became a leading proponent of Humanism during Luther's formative years. The excerpt below is one example of his work, enormously successful at the time.

His prologue is introduced: "For profit and salutary instruction, admonition, and pursuit of wisdom, reason, and good manners: also for contempt and punishment of folly, blindness, error, and stupidity of all stations and kinds of men: with special zeal, earnestness, and labor compiled at Basel by Sebastian Brant, doctor in both laws."

All lands in Holy Writ abound
And works to save the soul are found,
The Bible, Holy Fathers’ lore
And other such in goodly store,
So many that I feel surprise
To find men growing not more wise
But holding writ and lore in spite.
The whole world lives in darksome night,
In blinded sinfulness persisting,
While every street sees fools existing
Who know but folly, to their shame,
Yet will not own to folly’s name.
Hence I have pondered how a ship
Of fools I’d suitably equip—
A galley, brig, bark, skiff, or float,
A carack, scow, dredge, racing boat,
A sled, cart, barrow, carryall—
One vessel would be far too small
To carry all the fools I know.
Some persons have no way to go
And like the bees they come a-skimming,
While many to the ship are swimming,
And each one wants to be the first,
A mighty throng with folly curst,
Whose pictures I have given here.
They who at writings like to sneer
Or are with reading not afflicted
May see themselves herewith depicted
And thus discover who they are,
Their faults, to whom they’re similar.
For fools a mirror shall it be,
Where each his counterfeit may see.
His proper value each would know,
The glass of fools the truth may show.
Who sees his image on the page
May learn to deem himself no sage,
Nor shrink his nothingness to see,
Since none who lives from fault is free;
And who would honestly have sworn
That cap and bells he’s never worn?
Whoe’er his foolishness decries
Alone deserves to rank as wise,
Whoever wisdom’s airs rehearses
May stand godfather to my verses!
He’d injure me and have no gain
If he would not this book retain.
Here you will find of fools no dearth
And everything you wish on earth,
The reasons why you’re here listed,
Why many fools have ay existed,
What joy and honor wisdom bears
And why a fool in danger fares,
The world’s whole course in one brief look—
Are reasons why to buy this book.
In jest and earnest evermore
You will encounter fools galore.
The wise man’s pleasure I will win,
While fools speak oft of kith and kin,
Fools poor and rich, high-bred and tyke,
Yes, everyman will find his like,
I cut a cap for every chap,
But none of them will care a rap,
And if I’d named and then apprized him,
He’d say I had not recognized him.
I hope, though, men who’re really wise
Will find a deal to praise and prize,
And out of knowledge say forsooth
That I have spoken but the truth.
If I were sure that they’d approve
I’d care not what the fools reprove.
Naught else but truth the fool must hear,
Although it pleases not his ear.
Terence asserts that truth can breed
Deep hate, and he is right, indeed,
And he who blows his nose too long
Will have a nosebleed hard and strong . . .

This excerpt from Brant's poem is found on pages 31–33 of German Humanism and Reformation, edited by Reinhard P. Becker with foreword by Roland Bainton, published in 1982 by the Continuum Publishing Company, 575 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10022. This selection was translated by Edwin H. Zeydel.

It's intriguing how some characters never change . . .

Monday, May 19, 2008

What About You, Boy?

I heard a poem on NPR once in memoriam of a poet who had died. I wrote his family and got back a postcard from a daughter with this poem (written when I was 9 years old). I found it interesting even though ultimately it misses the point . . . stating, for example that we are all that God has at last. I do enjoy engaging the natural theology that's "out there."

What About You Boy?
by Frederick Manfred

"What about you, boy?
Is your work going along?
Are you still making candles
Against darkness and wrong?
The whole thing is to blast.
Blast and blast again. To fill the Black
With songs, poems, temples, paintings,
Anything at all. Attack. Attack.
Open and let go.
Even if it's only blowing. But blast.
And I say this loving my God.
Because we are all he has at last.
So what about it, boy?
Is your work going well?
Are you still lighting lamps
Against darkness and hell?"

1965, Thorp Springs Press, Berkeley, CA

Rigorists in Time of Controversy

From the CPH translation of Melanchthon's Loci Communes, p. 239.

A noble couple, Attalus and Blandina, had been imprisoned in Lyons because of their profession of the Gospel, and they were being repeatedly led to the places of punishment so that they might be moved to give up calling upon Christ.

There was also with them in the prison another godly Christian who disciplined himself with remarkable exercises, and used no wine or meat.

At this point Attalus was commanded by divine revelation to speak to this very rigorous man and say to him that he should eat with the rest of the people and not give an example to the others of being something special. And the reason for this command was also given, namely, that those who were less educated might think that this distinction of food was a higher form of worship of God, an error which had to be opposed rather than approved.

Attalus told this revelation to the rigorist and to the others in the prison, and the man obeyed him. The others were instructed by this word and made stronger. This story gives us a very important reason why the stubbornness of those who actually understand the distinction in worship forms must not be given approval, lest the errors and doubts in the ignorant and the weak be made worse.

Now, although this hardness sometimes is a kind of image of earnestness, yet often the man who in other instances has good reasons is not rendering a service to God, but is actually seeking the blessing of powers which are opposed to the Gospel.

Much greater sinners are those people who connive with the enemies of the Gospel and oppress those who are teachers of the truth, using their knowledge to hinder the free course of the Gospel and demonstrating that they desire and await a different status for the church. People like this in times of controversy want to appear as impartial judges, attached to neither party—men of integrity and above corruption. But they need to remember the word of Christ [Luke 11:23], “He who does not gather with Me scatters.”

A Visitor's-Eye View of LCMS Closed Communion

Check out what this non-LCMS blogger, John H. Armstrong, thinks about closed communion after visiting an LCMS congregation -- and note the comments from others . . .

Memorial Day -- "In Remembrance of Me"

On many altars of Reformed Protestants, one often finds the words inscribed "Do This In Remembrance of Me."

At first blush, there doesn't seem to be anything bad about this. They are, after all, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. But couched behind these words is a belief that Christ's body and blood are not actually present for the forgiveness of sins in the Lord's Supper. Holy Communion is simply a "memorial meal" whereby Christians are supposed to engage in the intellectual activity of calling to mind the love of Christ.

In an allegorical/symbolic memorial meal, it isn't very important to insist on particular elements (e.g. wine or grape juice; unleavened bread or rice crackers) because it's the REMEMBERING which is the important part. According to this kind of thinking, the remembering can be done no matter what elements are used and no matter what confession of faith one holds when coming to the altar.

Where the Lord's Supper is a memorial meal, the onus is on the worshiper to do the work of remembering. Where the Lord's Supper is a sacrament, the burden is on the Lord God to provide His gifts of forgiveness, live and salvation. The former is the Law, the latter is Gospel.

In his Loci Communes (pp. 146-7), Melanchthon points to faithful men in church history who have confessed this connection:

[St. Paul] says [1 Cor. 11:24-25], “Do this in remembrance of Me.”

Nor is this an empty spectacle. Christ is truly present. Through this ministry He gives His own body and blood to those who eat and drink. The ancient fathers spoke the same way. Cyril says in his Commentary on John, “Hence we must understand that Christ is in us not only through love, but also by participation in our nature,” that is, He is present not only with His efficacy but also with His substance.

And Hilary says, “For the things which we say concerning His natural presence in us would be foolish and ungodly unless we had truly spoken as He teaches us. For He Himself says, ‘The bread is truly My flesh, and the cup is truly My blood.’” And then He continues that when these things are received and consumed they cause us to be in Christ and Christ to be in us. Nor should we imagine that this is a memorial to a dead man, like the spectacles in honor of Hercules and the like. We must reject these profane notions, and having been instructed by this testimony, we should believe that Christ has truly been made a sacrifice and put to death for us, but also that He has truly been raised and reigns and is present with His church, and in this ministry He truly joins Himself to us as His members.

Mormons and the "Lord's Supper" - Bread and Water

Bread and water for the elements in the Lord's Supper? Read the details as presented by the Mormonism Research Center.

A two-paragraph snippet:

Water was not always used in the LDS version of the sacrament. From the beginning, wine was used, after the longstanding Christian tradition. This is seen in the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants regarding the organization of the Church as well as the Word of Wisdom (D&C 20:75; 89:5,6). The use of wine was called into question by Sidney Rigdon, a staunch temperance advocate, who joined the Church in August of 1830. Accordingly, Joseph Smith received a vision of the Lord in the same month in which an angel of the Lord told him that he was not to purchase wine or strong drink of his enemies, and that wine was not necessary to proper observance of the sacrament (D&C 27:1-4). The first time water was used in the sacrament was in 1837, though the issue would vacilate back and forth until 1900. After the turn of the century, water became the permanent element in the LDS observance.

What is so important about the use of wine, juice, or water in the sacrament? For centuries, there has been a difference of opinion whether wine or juice should be used, which controversy continues even today. Why is the use of water such a problem? Isn't the substance used a symbol of something else even more imporant?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Confessing vis-a-vis Professing Christ

I'm not certain where I first came across the following citation, but it stuck with me:

"If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point."

On the web it is generally attributed Luther's lips or pen, but I have never been able to verify the source. Some have given the reference to Luther's Works, Weimar Edition, Briefwechsel [Correspondence], vol. 3, pp. 81f., but one time when I had access to the WA, I checked it out -- and I don't think that is accurate. (Does anyone have access to the searchable electronic edition of the Weimaraner?)

Then, today I happened upon the statement in this context (Chronicles of the Schonberg-Cotta Family) -- note the minor differences -- and it seems much more likely to me that the statement originated here:

"But now to confess Luther seemed to me to have become identical with confessing Christ. It is the truth which is assailed in any age which tests our fidelity. It is to confess we are called, not merely to profess. If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved ; and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.

"It seems to me also that, practically, the contest in every age of conflict ranges usually round the person of one faithful, God-sent man, whom to follow loyally is fidelity to God. In the days of the first Judaizing assault on the early Church, that man was St. Paul. In the great Arian battle, this man was Athanasius — " Athanasius contra mundum." In our days, in our land, I believe it is Luther; and to deny Luther would be for me who learned the truth from his lips, to deny Christ.

"Luther, I believe, is the man whom God has given to his Church in Germany in this age. Luther, therefore, I will follow — not as a perfect example, but as a God-appointed leader. Men can never be neutral in great religious contests ; and if, because of the little wrong in the right cause, or the little evil in the good man, we refuse to take the side of right, we are, by that very act, silently taking the side of wrong.

"When I came back to the convent I found the storm gathering. I was asked if I possessed any of Dr. Luther's writings. I confessed that I did. It was demanded that they should be given up. I said they could be taken from me, but I would not willingly give them up to destruction, because I believed they contained the truth of God. Thus the matter ended until we had each retired to our cells for the night, when one of the older monks came to me and accused me of secretly spreading Lutheran heresy among the brethren." (p. 276)

"The Definite Platform" and The Ablaze! Movement

The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge describes the Rev. Dr. Samuel Simon Schmucker in this way:

"He strove to eliminate everything distinctively Lutheran and to substitute the basis of the Evangelical Alliance for the Augsburg Confession and Luther's Catechism. These tendencies culminated in the Definite Platform which he published anonymously in 1855. It claimed to be an 'American Recension of the Augsburg Confession,' representing the standpoint of the General Synod. In this document twelve of the original twenty-one doctrinal articles of the Augsburg Confession were changed, mutilated, or entirely omitted. The seven articles on abuses (XXII. to XXVIII.) were all omitted. Dr. Schmucker's theological standpoint may be characterized as a peculiar mixture of Puritanism, Pietism, and shallow rationalism."

Schmucker was one of the leading proponents of what Missouri Synod president C.F.W. Walther described as "the hollowest so-called American Lutheranism, a concoction of rationalism and sentimentalism." (Lehre und Wehre, 1865, 61.)

Friederich Bente's work, American Lutheranism describes other men in the movement: "When Prof. Sternberg, a fanatical anti-symbolist (opponent of the Lutheran Confessions), had been removed from Hartwick Seminary, the American Lutheran [a periodical of the General Synod], June 22, 1865, wrote: 'The days when compromises with and concessions to symbolism were made are passed. If a clash between symbolism and American Lutheranism is unavoidable within the General Synod, the sooner it comes, the better it is.'" (L. u. W. 1865, 253.)

In its issue of July 20, 1865, the American Lutheran published a number of letters in which the hope is expressed that the day was near when the Lutheran Church in America would shake off the yoke of symbolism and step forward, recognized by the great Protestant world. 'The attempt' — the correspondent continues — 'to live in one and the same house with the symbolists is useless. We thank God
that we have a paper which says in its first year: No compromise any longer with symbolism! Hallelujah! May the whole Church hear it.' (L. u. W. 1865, 277.)

"Revealing both its ignorance and animus, the American Lutheran, Rev. Anstaedt, then being the editor, said in its issue of January 24, 1867: 'The difference between the symbolists [Lutherans true to their Confessions] and American Lutherans is a radical one, going down to the innermost heart of Christianity and involving eternal interests, the salvation and hope of immortal souls. The American Lutheran believes that religion is a personal and individual matter, while the symbolist believes that it is but a congregational matter.'"

The Rev. Dr. Kieschnick does not replicate the specific errors which Schmucker maintained in The Definite Platform, but his Ablaze! Movement bears many of the same fruits and has much the same character as the American Lutheranism of the mid-nineteenth century. The Ablaze! Movement ranks with the hollowest so-called American Lutheranism, a concoction of rationalism and sentimentalism. It seeks to gain recognition in general Protestantism.

Concerned "symbolic" i.e. confessional Lutherans might do well to note how men like Charles Porterfield Krauth dealt with Samuel Simon Schmucker and the other members of The General Synod. The following links will direct you to primary source documents which make for some interesting reading:

S.S. Schmucker's Portraiture of Lutheranism

S.S. Schmucker's Elements of Popular Theology

W.J. Mann's Lutheranism in America

C.P. Krauth's The Conservative Reformation

Spaeth's Biography of C.P. Krauth

Friederich Bente's American Lutheranism

If you can find a copy: Vergilius Ferm's Crisis in American Lutheran Theology

Friday, May 9, 2008

The LCMS $500,000 Ad Campaign

Should $500,000 be spent on a national ad campaign to make Missouri Synod Lutherans feel good about being members of LCMS congregations?

It doesn't really matter how you answer the question, because it's scheduled to happen anyway.

While I was on the LCMS's Board for Communication Services (2004-2007), we were made aware that the executive director had arranged for a $1-million+ ad campaign in USA Today. [He hadn't bothered to get approval from the board before making such a commitment.] It was intended to precede the 2007 synodical convention.

The basic theme of the ad campaign which enlisted the help of a major media / public relations firm was centered around Dr. Kieschnick's theme of "Christ's love is here for you." The board I served on had numerous objections.

1) The theology of the ads intimated that if people were having difficult times with work, family or divorce, their lives could be made better with the love of Christ (in The Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod congregations of course). A number of us attempted to promote a more incarnational / means-of-grace approach by changing the slogan to "Christ is here for you." Not just His love -- and not a "love" defined as the world defined it, but Christ Himself who comes to us through Word and Sacrament.

2) Most of us felt somewhat uncomfortable spending over $1-million on an ad campaign when we were having to call missionaries back from the field due to budget constraints.

3) The program was being funded by a major annual "block grant" from Thrivent, the fraternal life insurance organization. It was being governed not by the synod's Board for Communication Services (BCS), but by the "Corporate Synod Executives" (or CSE's) made up of the executive directors of the various synodical boards and departments.

4) After an appeal to the Synod's Board of Directors, the money for the campaign was redirected to be handled under the auspices of the BCS. When it became apparent that the BCS was loathe to let the program go on in the form in which it had been conceived after meeting with Dr. Kieschnick and representatives of the CSE's -- and after some changes to the Board of Directors' membership were made (under protest) to fill some vacant positions -- the money was taken back from the BCS and redistributed to the CSEs to come up with some other idea for divvying up the money.

A month ago The Board Briefs published in an edition of The Reporter noted the approval of the national message campaign expenditure of $500,000 while missionaries like Rev. James May being removed from the field for "programmatic and business reasons."

Monday, May 5, 2008

Do Not Interpret the Confessions

You might hear liberal pastors and laypeople talk about interpreting the meaning of the Confessions by using the Scriptures. This is ALWAYS a tip-off to foul play -- and the discerning Lutheran should be ready to call it into question.

Commenting on the subject as to whether we should interpret the Confessions in light of the Scriptures, C.F.W. Walther wrote:

“Some want to subscribe to the Symbols with the proviso that they may interpret them according to Scripture or understand them correctly. This was the condition under which the Reformed declared themselves ready to subscribe to the Unaltered Augsburg Confession.” (Why Should Our Pastors, Teachers and Professors Subscribe Unconditionally to the Symbolical Writings of Our Church)

Likewise we read in Pieper's Christian Dogmatics, some further detail about this subject (vol. 1, pp. 354ff.), describing a quatenus subscription in its varied forms, including the position of those who say that the Confessions are to be interpreted by Scripture:

“Again, there are those who are ready to subscribe to the Confessions with the understanding that they be interpreted ‘according to Scripture,’ or ‘correctly.’ . . . By subscribing to the Symbols a man does not declare his readiness to interpret them ‘according to Scripture,’ but the minister or candidate in question makes the solemn declaration to the congregation that he has already discovered what Scripture teaches and he finds the Lutheran Confessions to be the expression of his own faith and confession.”

We don't use the Scriptures to interpret the Confessions. We use the Confessions to interpret the Scripture BECAUSE the Confessions ARE the true and accurate exposition of God's Word in Law and Gospel. Confessional Lutherans have a quia (literally, "because") subscription to the Confessions rather than a quatenus (literally, "in so far as") subscription.

When anyone suggests that they want to do things the other way around, they are likely putting a spin not only on the Confessions, but also on the Scriptures.

The Madman

I find the reading of a little rank heresy refreshing from time to time. It sharpens one's mind for the particular application of Law and Gospel.

A recent comment posted a Nietzsche quote that I thought was spot on. In honor of that post, I'm displaying Nietzsche's parable of The Madman for your consideration, integral to the "God is dead" movement.

How might we respond? Man did kill God when Christ was crucified. But the killing of God about which Nietzsche speaks together with the influences of Hegel, Schleiermacher, and Feuerbach may well have found their way into popular theology as is illustrated in the Ablaze! movement. How could that be possible? Is it the Ablaze! movement which is actually killing God, making an idol by creating a god who is different than the God who reveals Himself in the Scriptures? Does the theology and practice of the Ablaze! movement in effect make religion to be an "opiate of the people"? (Marx)

Here is a sketch of Nietzsche near the end of his life. Who is The Madman?

By F. Nietzsche

Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: "I seek God! I seek God!"---As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated?---Thus they yelled and laughed

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. "Whither is God?" he cried; "I will tell you. We have killed him---you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.

"How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us---for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto."

Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. "I have come too early," he said then; "my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars---and yet they have done it themselves.

It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: "What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?"

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1882, 1887) para. 125.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

When He Returns

"Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes,
will He really find faith on the earth?"
(Luke 18:8)

+ + + + +